Research Topic

Developmental, Modal, and Pathological Variation: Linguistic and Cognitive Profiles for Speakers of Linguistically Proximal Languages and Varieties

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The cognitive benefits of bilingualism have an impact on the processing mechanisms active during language acquisition in a way that results in language variation. Within bilingual populations, the notion of language/linguistic proximity is also of key importance for deriving variation. Sociolinguistic factors ...

The cognitive benefits of bilingualism have an impact on the processing mechanisms active during language acquisition in a way that results in language variation. Within bilingual populations, the notion of language/linguistic proximity is also of key importance for deriving variation. Sociolinguistic factors can also invest the process of language development and its outcome with an additional layer of complexity, such as schooling, language, dominance, competing motivations, or the emergence of mesolectal varieties which blur the boundaries of grammatical variants. This is particular relevant for diglossic speech communities—bilectal, bidialectal, or bivarietal speakers.

A clear goal of the present Research Topic is to address whether the bilingual advantage extends to such speakers as well. To this effect, the Research Topic pursues three interrelated aims:

1. To situate multilectalism on a gradient scale of linguality. By ‘multilectalism’ we mean the co-existence of politico-geographic varieties in a society. This arguably involves at least the following populations (where additional factors may make matters even more complex, such as whether a speaker acquires the second lect/language simultaneously or sequentially):
• Bi-/multilingualism: Individuals command more than one language proper.
• Bi-/multilectalism: Individuals command more than one language variety; at least one of these can also possibly be broken down further into basilectal, mesolectal, and acrolectal.
• Bi-/multilectal bi-/multilingualism: Individuals command more than one language variety of some kind, plus more than one language proper.
• Monolingualism: Individuals command precisely one language proper, without regard to varieties within that language.
• Monolectalism: Individuals command only one variety of a language (be it the standard or a dialect, or some variety in between).
Effects of language or linguistic proximity, bi-/multilectal acquisition, and their relevance for the socio-syntax of language development are of particular interest, that is, apparent sociolinguistic aspects such as formal schooling that have an effect on the grammatical language development of a child growing up in a bi- or multilectal society, possibly after the critical period. Equally important is the concept of ‘comparative linguality’ with the aim to elucidate the argument for bi-/multilectalism on a gradient scale in the society at large.

2. To determine differential input effects across speakers with different developmental trajectories. Merging sociolinguistic and neurocognitive insights about language variation, we seek to uncover which factors derive variation in the course of language development (e.g., the sign language advantage, bimodal development, different types of bilingualism, or dialect acquisition).

3. To provide a complete approach to language variation by bringing cases of atypical development into the above context. The aim is to see how variation in cases of pathological development affects different parts of language and whether the affected markers are manifested in a comparable way cross-linguistically.

We hope to attract empirically based contributions on language and/or cognition that address one or more of the stated aims. Studies can range from infancy into adulthood for speakers with different lingualities (e.g. the populations listed above), different modalities (e.g., spoken and/or signed languages), and different pathologies (e.g., specific language impairment or autism spectrum disorders) as well as different language backgrounds (e.g., heritage languages in diaspora).


Keywords: atypical development, cognitive advantage, multilectalism, proximity, varieties


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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